The Tufts Elections Commission (ECOM) appointed four senators to the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate and one member to the Committee on Student Life (CSL), a committee made up of faculty and students, on Tuesday, according to ECOM chair Ethan Mandelbaum, a sophomore.
ECOM appointed Jonah O’Mara Schwartz and Steven Honig to fill the two of the four Class of 2019 Senator openings, according to Mandelbaum. ECOM also appointed first-years Kathleen Lanzilla as the LGBTQ+ Community Senator and Maya Velasquez as the Latinx Community Senator. Nicholas Anyaegbunam, a sophomore, was appointed to the CSL. Mandelbaum said that these were all uncontested seats.
The appointments came after an amendment on an ECOM bylaw, allowing the group to appoint all the uncontested candidates to the Senate, TCU Judiciary and the CSL. The bylaw change passed unanimously within ECOM, and was approved by the Senate executive board and the Judiciary, Mandelbaum said.
These appointments were made after the special election, which was scheduled to take place on Feb. 7, was cancelled and postponed until further notice due to a lack of candidates running for open seats and a lack of contested seats. ECOM had previously received only two candidate petitions for four open Class of 2019 seats, one for two open CSL seats and two for one First Generation (First-Gen) Community Senator seat and one each for the rest of the open community senator seats, according to Mandelbaum.
The TCU Constitution stipulates that when class senate seats are not filled, the open seats slide down to the next class year. Since ECOM received only two petitions for four 2019 seats on Jan. 29, two Class of 2020 senator seats are now open.
Mandelbaum said that holding an election with open seats left and only one contested position, the First-Gen Community Senator seat, was not a practical option.
“It didn’t make sense to run an election for one [seat] when we still need three more,” Mandelbaum told the Daily in an email.
Mandelbaum added that the bylaw change allowed ECOM to avoid running two special elections. He explained that ECOM would hold a special election for the remaining seats later in the semester.
TCU President Benya Kraus, a senior, said the Senate Executive Board passed the ECOM bylaw change after a thorough discussion and added that she hopes the change will expedite the election process.
“I expect this bylaw change to make the elections process easier, allowing uncontested senators to begin their work sooner and without unnecessary bureaucratic hoops, and saving us the cost of having to run double elections when half of the seats are uncontested,” Kraus told the Daily in an email.
Newly appointed senators will begin their roles immediately and join the body at the regular meeting this coming Sunday, according to Kraus. She said that filling these seats will lead to a more democratic and effective decision-making process for the Senate.
“The senators filling these vacancies have presented themselves to me as being extremely passionate and committed, and I’m excited to help support and work with them in channeling these passions to further enhance student life at Tufts,” she said. “Having more perspectives in the room to work on committee projects, vote on budget allocation, and debate resolutions helps make our decisions stronger and more representative of what the student body wants and expects out of its student government.”
One of the new appointees, new Class of 2019 Senator Jonah O’Mara-Schwartz, said he is thrilled at the prospect of beginning his role in the Senate.
“I am sure it will take some time to learn all of the ins and outs of the Senate, but I am confident in my ability to pick those up and get to work,” O’Mara-Schwartz told the Daily in an email. “I am excited to work with the Senate to improve the lives of students in meaningful ways. I think there are a lot of challenges facing the Senate and I look forward to putting in the hours to solve them.”
O’Mara-Schwartz added that ECOM had been helpful throughout the process and kept in touch until his official appointment on Tuesday.
“ECOM let us know [on Jan. 31] after the candidates meeting that the election was uncontested and that we would be appointed. My appointment was finally confirmed [on Feb. 6],” O’Mara-Schwartz said. “ECOM was pretty good about remaining in communication with us and letting us know what was going on.”
According to Mandelbaum, while a date has not been set for the postponed special election, it will likely happen in late February or early March at the latest.
Running for First-Gen Community Senator, the only contested position so far, are first-years Erick Martinez Camacho and Alejandro Baez.